Hurt Me


Hurt Me Essay, Research Paper

I think part of the problem is that I was perfect once. It only

lasted for about five minutes, but I guess I’m supposed to be

grateful it ever happened or something. Actually, I think it kind of

messed me up. Maybe because I was too young or something. I guess

perfect usually happens when you’re young, though. You just don’t see

old people being perfect much. Or maybe they’re perfect a lot of the

time, just nobody notices.

Have you ever noticed the most important things happen when we’re

too young to understand that some big deal is going on? I think God

should sort of tap you on the shoulder and say “Pay attention, you’re

going to want to remember this.” Or maybe he does, but we ignore it.

Anyway, this perfect deal happened when I was not quite 16. I was

sort of a jock. Well, a track guy. A lot of people don’t think of

track guys as jocks. I’d been this real scrawny kid, sort of the

class nerd, all my life. And I was a year younger than most of the

other kids in my class, which I didn’t like much. Everyone else was

driving and had dates and stuff. I didn’t date, though. I mean I

wanted to date, but I would’ve had to beg some guy to double date. I

didn’t really have any friends that would have done anything like

that. Besides, what I really wanted was a date with like some

knockout babe, but I’m pretty sure none of them knew I was alive. I’d

have probably ended up with some real chubby girl or something. And

she’d have probably been wishing she was with somebody else the whole

time, anyway.

So, I guess I thought if maybe I was a jock or something, then

girls would notice me. But most of the jock stuff I tried, I pretty

much just got my butt kicked. I was really small, and I seem to

remember being scared *censored*less most of the time. My dad, he’d been

this like mondo jock in college. He tried to not be disappointed

about the butt-kicking stuff, but he was anyway. You can always tell

when your parents are trying to not be disappointed. I think maybe

that’s worse than when they’re screaming at you. But he wasn’t around

much, my dad, so I guess it really wasn’t a big deal or anything.

Anyway, I tried track when I was a freshman in high school. I

mean, you hardly ever see track guys getting their butts knocked off,

and I guess running seemed kind of natural. I’d had a lot of

experience at that.

You know, you always read — well you don’t always read, since

nobody writes that much about running track, except in those runner’s

magazines where everybody acts like they really like running. I

really don’t think they like it, though, most of them. Except for the

ones that are really out there getting some sort of huge endorphin

rush from running about 20 miles a day. I think mostly they just try

to like it, since they feel like they have to. I mean, since they’re

writing about it. I don’t think a running magazine would buy an

article from some guy about how he hates running.

Anyway, when you do read about guys who run track, they always

saying stuff like “I prefer track because of the individuality of the

competition” or “I like that I’m only competing with myself.” I think

that’s bull*censored*, mostly. I think mostly guys run track cause they’re

fast, and couldn’t play football.

And I was really pretty good at it. Not like I was going to the

Olympics or anything, but I made the varsity as a freshman, which was

kind of unusual. It was kind of funny. I was good at all the events,

but not great at any of them. I was kind of a track utility guy. I

could run everything from the 100-yard dash to the mile. I don’t know

if you know much about track, but that’s real unusual. Most of the

time you’ve got your distance guys and your sprinting guys, but I

could do all of them.

At first I was mostly relay fodder, you know, just running on the

relay teams. But by my sophomore year I was running a lot of

individual events, especially the mile and half-mile. I liked the

mile best, though. You know what I really liked about it? The

pointless stupidity of it all. The whole thing consists of going

around in a circle, again and again. The goal is to go around the

circle a little faster than everybody else. When everything’s said

and done, though, you’re right back where you started, only you’re

real tired and sweaty. Oh, and sometimes you get to puke, too. I

really think they should give style points in track, like they do in

gymnastics. You know, take a few seconds off some guy time if he

looks like he’s really enjoying it, or has a great stride or


Anyway, I was a lot faster sprinter than the real distance

runners, so I would sort of lag back for most of the race and then

run like a bastard the last 200 yards. Usually, I’d pass most of the

field. Seems like I’d always finish second or third, though. The

coach was always telling me to run the whole race, not just sprint at

the end. He thought I’d do better that way, but I didn’t really think

so. Seeing as how I was a good sprinter, I figured I should use my

speed. And people really kind of got excited when I was sprinting

that last 200 yards. I mean, even while I was running and all, I

could see them screaming in the stands. I don’t think they’d have

gotten so interested if the finish wasn’t exciting. I guess I sort of

liked that, seeing the girls yelling for me and everything.

Anyway, I was going to tell you about that time I was perfect.

See, after my sophomore year, I was still 15. That was sort of a

disadvantage in high school track, but the AAU has the Junior

Olympics every year or two. And there was an age group in track just

for people under 16. So I figured, most of the kids in this age

group, they hadn’t run high school track like I had, so maybe I’d

have an advantage if I entered. The first meets at the city and state

levels, I pretty much cleaned up. And the best part was the finals

for the Tri-State region were in Memphis, where I lived.

It’s not like there’s really a home field advantage in track or

anything, but I tried to psych myself up that there was. You see, the

top three finishers got to run in the Southeast region, which seemed

like a really big deal at the time. Anyhow, about a week before the

meet, we got this notice about who was running in it, and how fast

they’d run in their qualifying races. I guess my bubble really burst

then, because almost every guy entered had faster times than I did.

And there was this one kid who was only 14, but was like the next Jim

Ryan or something. It was pretty clear that I was outclassed.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, my dad decided he was going to

come. He brought his wife, too. I think that was the third wife. Real

cute blonde bimbo about 50 years younger than him. I’d been running

for two years, and they’d never had time to work one of my races into

their busy social schedule.

But this time, this guy who worked for my dad had a kid running in

another race. He knew I was running, and I guess he was trying to

schmooze up to dad or something, telling him how great it was them

both having kids in the Junior Olympics. So suddenly, my dad’s coming

to watch me run. Or probably, he was really coming so this other guy

would see him watching me run.

So right before the race, I try to break the news to my dad that

I’m going to get creamed. I try to start out gently, you know, saying

I hope maybe I can get third, so I can go to the regional finals.

Well, he just goes ape*censored*, standing up and getting all red. “Losers

are guys who don’t think they can win,” he says. And “I always ran to

win, I always played to win.” And on and on. So I just kind of left

with him mouthing at me. I guess he was real disappointed his kid

wasn’t going to kick some butt, what with his employee there and all.

And as if my parents being there wasn’t bad enough, the guy in

charge of organizing the mile comes up to me and asks if I’ll be a

rabbit, since he knows I’m not exactly competitive with these guys. A

rabbit is a guy who goes out and runs the first half of the race

really fast, then drops out. That helps the other guys push

themselves and get good times, and this organizer wants his race to

have the fastest times in the region.

Well, I figured since I’m not going to win or anything, I can do

that. And I guess I thought, you know, I might as well lead for a

while. I kind of thought maybe dad would think that at least I tried

hard and stuff. And maybe instead of quitting at the halfway point, I

can just slow down and at least finish.

So they line us up to start, and off we go. Now I figure since I’m

supposed to be the rabbit, I’ll just run my usual half-mile pace. The

field sticks with me around the first turn, just starting to string

out. If you’ve never run a mile, its about half-way through the first

turn where you sort of loosen up and just get into your rhythm. So we

come out of the turn, and I’m feeling real smooth and loose. Which is

real surprising since I’d been so emotional and tense and all before

the race. But now I’m feeling real good. And I’d never lead a race

early like this, so its kind of cool. Some guys I know are clapping

and cheering. They think I’m really doing great or something. I mean,

they’re all sprinters and field guys, so they don’t really have a

clue that the guy in front at first is gonna get toasted later on.

Anyway, I’m feeling good, but I got to admit I’m a little pissed

off about them asking me to be the rabbit and all, so I figure I’ll

kind of *censored* with their minds a little. So on the backstretch I open

up a little. Not too much, cause there’s no way I’m not going to

finish that first half mile, but enough to put a few yards between me

and the pack. Now these guys are all pretty good runners, and they

know better than to put out that much energy this early. They’re

running smart races. But I know they’ve got to be wondering what was

I doing. And really, I couldn’t tell you. I guess I was just pissed

off. And maybe I thought I would like have a moment in the spotlight

or something.

So we go through the second turn. That second turn’s when I

usually start breathing hard. You really have to consciously control

your breathing when that happens. See, if your breathing gets ragged,

you start losing you stride. If you lose your stride, suddenly

instead of just running smooth, everything gets sort of uncoordinated

and you really slow up. But if you control your breathing for a few

seconds, you start this real regular, fast deep breathing and

everything gets back to normal. You can lose a lot of distance if you

let your breathing get ragged during that transition.

Well, what with that show-off sprint in the back stretch, I

struggled a little more than usual getting my breathing right, and I

lost my stride some. Not much, but enough to slow me down for a dozen

steps or so, and the field caught up. But once I got my stride back,

I decided I’m going to get a lead before the home stretch, so I

opened up again for 50 yards. And that was what it really was all

about, I guess, because I sure remember leading the pack up the home

stretch, right in front of the grandstand. And I was trying not to

grin. I mean I didn’t grin or anything, but I sure felt like


When we went past the start/finish line, a timer was yelling the

lap time “Sixty-four, sixty-four,” which was really fast. Myself, I

usually never went below 70 seconds on the first lap, but then I

never ran below 4:50 for the mile. But some of the guys in that field

could approach 4:30, so I figured the lap time was just right for


And around we went again. I tried really hard to keep the pace

exactly the same, which was kind of difficult for me. I’d never run

in front before, so this was really a new experience. But I figured

if I was slowing down too much, someone would have passed me. Anyway,

I made it through that second lap, and the half-mile time was 2:12,

which was about as perfect as you could do.

Now a real rabbit, he would just run off the track into the

infield after the second lap, but I was going to try to finish. Since

I hadn’t run off the track, the guys behind me would have to run

outside of me to pass in the turn, making them run an extra distance.

I didn’t want to screw up anybody’s time or anything, so I tried

really hard to keep the pace up through the turn on that third lap.

But as soon as we got onto the backstretch one of the hotshots blew

past me. By the end of the backstretch, another went by. But

actually, I was kind of surprised that the whole field wasn’t past

me. I mean, I was really starting to labor by then. I huffed through

the turn still in third place, though. What I hadn’t realized, I

guess, is that I’d really strung out a lot of the field on those

first two laps.

For one glorious moment when I realized I was still in third

place, I really started to think that maybe I had a shot at that last

spot going to the regional finals. But going down the home stretch

another person swung out to pass me. I tried to pick my pace up,

thinking if I could just hold him outside till the turn came up,

maybe having to run that extra distance around the turn would keep

him from passing me. But I didn’t have anything left to pick up with.

He went prancing by, right in front of the grandstand, while I seemed

to be running in mud.

Finishing the home stretch took an eternity, and by the time I

started the front turn for the last time I as running back on my

heels. And I heard another runner close behind. Running on your

heels, that’s the death rattle of a distance runner. When you’re

running you stay on your toes. Your heels never touch the ground.

When you’ve shot your wad, and your leg muscles start to knot up,

then you can’t help but dropping back on your heels. Suddenly, you

feel a kind of jarring impact with each step. When that happens, it’s

time to drop out and quit.

But I really wanted to finish the race. Now don’t get me wrong.

Finishing things I started wasn’t real common behavior for me, even

back then. But I guess I didn’t wanted to hear what a quitter I was

from my superjock dad. And I guess I was still pissed about being the

rabbit, at least a little bit. So I just kept plodding around the

first turn. And the guy behind me realized I was toast, and decided

to just wait till the back stretch to take me. Or maybe he didn’t

give a *censored*, since the first three finishers were at least 10 yards

ahead of us by then. They had that regional trip all locked up.

I don’t remember most of that turn, but I sure remember entering

the backstretch. This was the fourth time in four minutes I’d been

there, but it sure looked different. For a moment that lasted forever

I just stared down that backstretch. The last turn seemed two miles

away, and I realized I couldn’t possibly make it. I couldn’t even

walk it.

When the guy behind me swung out to pass, I saw it was the 14-

year-old whiz kid. I sort of glanced over at him, and you could tell

from his face he thought he could catch the guys 10 yards ahead of

us, which was crazy. I mean, in a local race, at a local pace, I

could maybe make up 10 yards. But I was a closet sprinter. This kid

was a miler, and this wasn’t the local competition.

Do you know much about running distance in track? Well, I tell

you, there’s more to it than just being the best runner. Sometimes

there’s a lot of pushing and shoving, and in those days we wore these

shoes with half inch long spikes for traction. Those spikes were

weapons, and you learned pretty quick not to let someone get real

close behind you. I’d lost a couple of races when someone stuck his

spikes in my calf, but I guess I might have won a couple that way,


Well, as this kid swings out behind me, he nicks me with his

spikes. Not badly, but really unnecessary, since it was obvious I was

no competition. I guess being young, he didn’t realize you should

wait till you’re out of range before you pull that *censored*. He was still

right beside me, and by reflex I sort of elbowed him on his hip,

which threw him totally off his stride. You can get away with using

your outside arm like that in the backstretch, since the officials

are all on the other side of the track.

It took him a couple of steps to get his balance back, which put

him a yard behind me. I knew those spikes would be clawing my leg

next time he went by, and out of some self-preservation reflex,

suddenly I was sprinting. I mean a second ago, I could barely keep

running, and now I’ve started a sprint 300 yards away from the

finish. I sure wasn’t thinking of any strategy. I guess I just didn’t

want any more spikes in my leg, or something.

I do remember thinking I’d just keep going as long as I could. I

don’t know what I thought would happen after that. Maybe I’d cramp up

or something, so I could sort of quit with honor. I’m not sure,

exactly. And I remember hearing that angry kid pounding behind me,

trying to catch up. At least I had the satisfaction of ruining his

finishing sprint by making him start too early.

I don’t remember much about that last 300 yards. Pain. I remember

a lot of pain, and later people told me I was wobbling from side to

side, sort of staggering up the finish stretch. I guess they were

hollering and stuff, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t even know what

place I’d come in until someone told me later. One of my friends told

me that my mouth was gaping open and I was sort of spraying saliva

all over myself. Probably not a pretty sight. I suppose it was a good

thing they weren’t giving style points in that race.

I didn’t care if the girls were cheering, or my dad was proud of

me, or if I was running on my heels. I didn’t care if I staggered and

wobbled, or even if I won. You know, for a minute there, I just

didn’t care about anybody or what they thought about me. I just kept

running really hard and fast after I should have quit. I know you

guys are about to bust a gut to ask me, “How did I feel?” and all

that psychobabble crap. I felt like puking, OK? That’s about all I


If this was a movie or something, I’d probably tell you how I won

the race. It was pretty close actually. I kept going those 300 yards

finished that race in 4:38, almost 15 seconds faster than I’d ever

run before, or would ever run again. I came in second, one-tenth of a

second behind the winner, one-tenth ahead of the third place guy.

Or maybe I’d tell you how I found my true spirit that day and went

on to be some famous track guy. Oh, I made my trip to the regionals,

where I finished dead last. I never ran in competition again after

that. My senior year, I just couldn’t get really interested in it.

And I didn’t find some inner peace that day and become a popular,

self confident type guy. I guess we all know that didn’t happen.

Now that I’m talking about it like this, it seems that what

happened that day wasn’t very important. Kind of like the rest of my

life, I guess. I went around in circles for a while, trying to look

good and busting my ass just to get back where I started. After that

I laid on the ground and hurt. Oh, yeah, and I puked, too. Probably

some people were a little interested and entertained for a while, but

it didn’t change anybody’s world or anything.

Except maybe mine, a little bit. Sometimes I see these people that

seem to have everything. You know, those smart, good looking, rich

guys with the arm candy wives. Sometimes I get real jealous of those

guys with their perfect lives. Most of the time, though, I think,

“Hey, I was perfect, once, for a little while. But it took an

incredible amount of effort, it really didn’t matter, and I made

myself sick doing it.”

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